Three Ways to Be More Productive Online and Offline
Productivity and Distractions
It’s easy to get distracted. Whether you can’t seem to keep working past 2PM without chatting it up with coworkers or you're overly amused by a cat’s head that has been placed over the head of a video game warrior in an online meme, you know deep down you have important items to tend to.
There’s no huge secret to being productive. It is really a combination of a few good practices: structure, lists and self control.
Working Hard or Hardly Working?
Quick Tip for Working Online
When on the web, only have tabs open that are part of the tasks you need to complete. Before you start on your to-do list:
- If there are already tabs open on your browser, close any tabs that are not related to the tasks at hand
- Close out any unnecessary communication such as instant messaging or Skype
- Put your phone on silent
- Keep snacks and water nearby
Being Productive at Work
Now-a-days most people spend a large amount of their time online. The web is a place that is a mixture of numerous things to do from banking, to working, to simply doing nothing better than surfing trashy gossip articles and silly photos.
If you're at work, there is usually more pressure on you to keep your window open to whatever web-based program your company runs for its employees to do their work; however, we all know that when no one is looking (or at least we think so), we often sneak off to a website that is not work related.
When working online, structure your time. When you come into work, you usually already have an idea of what you need to do. On top of that, events may occur throughout the day that will add or subtract from what you’re expected to do.
If you have been on your job for a good while, you probably also know how long it takes to complete most, if not all, of the tasks you perform throughout the day. So, for example if you have to generate a report and email it to your client and manager and you know that this overall takes two hours, manage your time accordingly.
Look at the clock and tell yourself you will complete that specific task by a specific time (hopefully about two hours later). Giving yourself a miniature goal keeps you in line and focused on completing that task before your own personal deadline. Even if your manager and client don’t need the report until the end of the day, putting yourself on a stricter deadline than what is asked of you will keep you more productive and cushion you from accidentally delivering late.
Making daily, weekly or monthly goals is also helpful, especially for larger projects or projects that follow a specific schedule. If you plan to work on these everyday or certain days in the week, use the same structure where you allocate a certain amount of time in a certain frequency to work on that task.
Making a list is key to having structure in your work, home and social life. Using a calendar, like Outlook, for example, can you help you further organize yourself and keep you on schedule. Going back to the practice of completing a task by a certain time brings you to why lists play an essential role. You will obviously have various tasks to complete.
Creating a list of things to do and by what time to complete them in an environment like Outlook will keep you right on schedule. Having reminders pop up in Outlook will also remind you of what is coming next.
When you come into work, one of the first things you should do before you begin working is to look at your calendar so that you already have an idea of what you need to do right now and two hours from now to keep yourself on a productive roll, as well as make adjustments.
Having a list and structure won’t mean a thing if you’re not disciplined. Not only do you have to take the time to think about your daily, weekly, and/or monthly goals and write lists, you also have to follow through.
The hope is that with structure and lists, you will create enough pressure on yourself to complete your tasks within a certain timeframe which should also prevent you from lingering off of your workspace into non-work related territory or spending too much time chatting with colleagues.
Having the self discipline to tell yourself, I can only talk to Bob and Sue for 10 minutes or else I won't finish this in time or My husband wants me to look at hotels for our weekend get-a-way, but I know I won't get to these reports if I do that.
You will need all three things, structure, lists and self control to be productive. If you ignore your calendar or don't set any goals, chances are you won’t improve.
Example of a To-Do List
How Often Do You Get Distracted from Your Tasks
Microsoft Outlook 2013
Being Productive at Home
Just because we’re not at work doesn’t not mean we’re done working or that our aspirations end there. We have other things we’d like to achieve. Some of those objectives may include finding a new job, having more time to date, hang out with friends, or just getting the house or apartment into better shape.
Because of work itself, it’s difficult to come home and be productive. Structure, lists and self control have their places at home and in social life as well. Finding a balance between play, rest, and doing work around the house is paramount to your overall livelihood and life balance.
Because home is a place of work, play and rest, structure has an important role in moderating these different tones in your home life. Just like at work, create structure at home by identifying certain goals that you want to meet and in what timeframe. For example you may have several goals such has designating more time to family, friends, or dating. Additionally, maybe you want to get a certain room in your dwelling space organized, as well as search for a new career. You may also have certain projects. Maybe you would like to do some touch up painting before summer or clear an area in your yard and plant a garden.
Start by structuring yourself with determine what days that you will work on these goals and how much time to spend on them. Maybe every Saturday from 10AM to 12PM, you will work on your garden until it’s finished. Then from 12PM to 2PM, you decide to take time to yourself to do something relaxing or keep in touch with friends online.
Because you're at home, it’s important to leave free space in your home schedule for rest and fun activities. This is the time where doing nothing or just enjoying odd news stories on the internet and pictures of cute babies has its place in helping you unwind or get a laugh, as long as it’s in moderation.
When at home, most of us usually are not in front a computer as much as we are at work, so having the right list for your home life is important. In the past, I would think of something I wanted to do when I was in another room at home. By the time, I get somewhere where I could write it down, I had forgotten. Now I leave pens and notepads in different parts of the house.
I might be folding laundry in the bedroom and realize that I want to order new sheets or towels. Now, I just walk over to a notepad or daily agenda on my dresser, and write it down. Alternately, with your smartphone, you can also have a portable notepad to keep track of the lists of things you want or need to do. Whichever method you use, just be sure you have a way to keep track of your goals and the time you should spend on these tasks.
The hardest part is keeping the motivation. Maybe your goal is exercise 30 minutes from Tuesday to Saturday. It is up to you to not ignore your reminder on your phone or cross it off the list when it has not been completed. Don’t cheat your own structure and priorities.
Let’s say you have some online banking to do including researching investments and selecting the best one for you. With the many tabs you can have open in one browser window, only have open what is related to this task.
If you turn on your computer to start your banking and you also have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram open, close them before starting. When you’re finished you can spend your free time socializing, tweeting and loading pictures.
Self Control goes hand in hand with making rules for yourself. Give yourself and rule like minimizing the time spent on social networks or watching TV to a fair and workable range. Once you hit that limit for the day or week, that’s it. It’s time to get back to what you should be doing.
Being Productive and Being Sane
Although schedules are important to keeping us productive and keeping our goals in reach, ultimately each of us need to have the perfect balance of work, play and rest. Even though you may have a schedule, know that at times, you’ll need to be flexible and may have to break the schedule or go slightly of course. Perhaps, you've been too aggressive with your goals and need to tone it down or something has happened in life and certain goals have to be postponed. Find a way to create just the right amount of structure so that you are happy with what you accomplished everyday and not stressed. If you find you are having trouble, consider reading a book on balancing out your life and managing stress, or seek a group counseling session on dealing with everyday stress.